He did not mean to touch a penny of such moneys as Roger Stapylton had bequeathed to him; for the colonel considered—now—it was a man’s duty personally to support his wife and child and sister. And he vigorously attempted to discharge this obligation, alike by virtue of his salary at the Library, and by spasmodic raids upon his tiny capital, and—chief of all—by speculation in the Stock Market.
Oddly enough, his ventures were through a long while—for the most part—successful. Here he builded a desperate edifice whose foundations were his social talents; and it was with quaint self-abhorrence he often noted how the telling of a smutty jest or the insistence upon a manifestly superfluous glass of wine had purchased from some properly tickled magnate a much desiderated “tip.”
And presently these tips misled him. So the colonel borrowed from “Patricia’s account.”
And on this occasion he guessed correctly.
And then he stumbled upon such a chance for reinvestment as does not often arrive. And so he borrowed a trifle more in common justice to Patricia....
When those then famous warriors, Colonel Gaynor and Captain Green, were obstinately fighting extradition in Quebec; when in Washington the Senate was wording a suitable resolution wherewith to congratulate Cuba upon that island’s brand-new independence; and when Messieurs Fitzsimmons and Jeffries were making amicable arrangements in San Francisco to fight for the world’s championship:—at this remote time, in Chicago (on the same day, indeed, that in this very city Mr. S.E. Gross was legally declared the author of a play called Cyrano de Bergerac), the Sons of the Colonial Governors opened their tenth biennial convention. You may depend upon it that Colonel Rudolph Musgrave represented the Lichfield chapter.
It was two days later the telegram arrived. It read:
Agatha very ill come to me roger in
He noted how with Stapyltonian thrift Patricia telegraphed ten words precisely....
And when he had reached home, late in the evening, the colonel, not having taken his bunch of keys with him, laid down his dress-suit case on the dark porch, and reached out one hand to the door-bell. He found it muffled with some flimsy, gritty fabric. He did not ring.
Upon the porch was a rustic bench. He sat upon it for a quarter of an hour—precisely where he had first talked with Agatha about Patricia’s first coming to Lichfield.... Once the door of a house across the street was opened, with a widening gush of amber light wherein he saw three women fitting wraps about them. One of them was adjusting a lace scarf above her hair.
“No, we’re not a bit afraid—Just around the corner, you know—Such a pleasant evening——” Their voices carried far in the still night.